Acquiring an economic and financial education is important, but traditional methods – like books and college courses – cost time and money. And if you’re like me, you prefer to not pay for things.
However, there are many great resources (in addition to Money Crashers, of course) to help you take control of your personal financial education – all without cost. You simply need to get online, and know where to look. While the Internet is loaded with bad – even dangerous – misinformation, you can take advantage of the following five sites.
Best Financial Information Websites
Investopedia is a good starting place for those who find themselves dumbfounded by the terms used in the financial world. When I wrote my first article related to finance, I quickly found myself confused by all the jargon that is casually tossed around. I needed help clearing up the confusion, and I didn’t have time to fire up an academic database, nor the cash to thumb through a personal finance tome. Luckily, I found Investopedia.
Definitions and Exam Prep
Its definitions are accurate, and its simple search function helped me save time. It kept me from having to read much longer material while still providing me with the same basic knowledge.
Investopedia also has many financial investing tutorials and exam preparation materials that help users understand key terms and concepts. The site also features the nifty Investopedia Stock Simulator that lets you learn what it’s like to trade stocks and get a feel for risking your own capital out on the open market. All in all, it’s a great resource for people who are new to finance, and it offers far more than just a financial dictionary.
Some people have mixed feelings about the jack-of-all trades information site About.com, but I can assure you this site deals in quality financial and economic knowledge. This site has two pages among the many offered that are dedicated to the studies of economics and finance, and I know a few college students who have learned economic formulas on About.com because their textbook was too dry.
One thing that really stands out on About.com’s business and finance page is the section they have for small businesses. Obviously, small businesses are different from large ones, and most people who go into business for themselves start out small. About.com features many subsections arranged beneath the main “Small Business” page that are updated frequently, and this makes it one of the best free Internet resources for entrepreneurs. The topics go into so much detail about small business that there is even a guide that gives information about how to open a business in Canada.
3. Biz/ed Learning Zone
If you haven’t heard of the Biz/ed Learning Zone, you’re missing out. Biz/ed is a free online portal for students and teachers in business, economics, and accounting. The site is based in the United Kingdom, but that does not negatively impact the relevancy of the accounting and business materials you can download. That’s because it is affiliated with Cengage Learning, a major provider of learning solutions to academia worldwide.
What stands out at the Biz/ed Learning Zone is the section on accounting, which provides easy-to-understand accounting lessons. Spreadsheets are the lifeblood of accounting, and Biz/ed’s accounting lessons come in spreadsheet format with multiple pages. Plus, they’re color-coded to make the lessons easier on the eyes. Perhaps surprisingly, colorful accounting spreadsheets are much easier to process than trying to read the same information from a black and white textbook.
Budgeting and financial literacy is a big problem in America, and this became particularly apparent after the 2008 economic collapse. Many people were living beyond their means, and the United States government deemed it necessary to provide budgeting and financial literacy information to the public. MyMoney.gov represents the efforts of 22 federal entities, and offers a wealth of free and expert information.
Financial Data and Life Planning
The thing I like the most about MyMoney.gov is how nicely the website’s main page is designed. As a writer, I’ve had many experiences searching government websites for specific information, which can be frustrating because information is often either hidden or organized in a way that doesn’t make sense. However, MyMoney.gov organizes a broad range of topics well and is easy to navigate. Plus, it offers multiple tools and guides, including a host of current economic and financial statistics and data.
The “Life Events” section is perhaps the most useful area. Within it are financial guides for planning for your first child, paying for college, buying your first home, and preparing for retirement. There are also several calculators that help you plan and budget. This site is a great example of your tax dollars at work.
5. Khan Academy
To put it simply, Khan Academy is a revolution in education. The site’s stated goal is to provide a world-class education for free. The founder of the website, Salman Khan, is a former hedge fund manager who decided he’d rather spend his time providing free financial education, rather than navigating the market. He has three degrees from MIT, as well as one from Harvard Business School, and he’s using his smarts to help regular people make sense of complex concepts.
Finance and Economics
Khan Academy covers a variety of disciplines, and the site is always adding new lessons to its database. I’m most impressed with its financial and economics lessons. Khan Academy excels at presenting dry material in an engaging way that is brief and to the point – there is no chance of falling asleep during a lecture here. I have actually used Khan Academy to help pass college classes, and I can tell you I have never been so excited about furthering my own personal education.
Mr. Khan uses a digital white board in lessons with many different colored markers to differentiate between concepts. And though the site uses simple technology, it utilizes it so well that many schools and home-schooled students are using the site’s lessons to supplement their curriculum. If you need financial knowledge or just want to understand how markets work, I encourage you to check out Khan Academy.
If you have the time, you can learn almost everything that students of finance, business, and economics are taught in college, and you can learn it for free. Just make sure to properly vet each site you’re interested in, and don’t fall prey to the glut of misinformation that can be found online.
These are not the only good financial and business education sites out there. Which do you recommend? Are there any sites that you think should be avoided?